General Information about Covid-19
The Flu Shot and Coronavirus
Should I get the flu shot this year? Will it help against coronavirus?
It is well documented now that there is a surge of COVID-19 across dozens of states while at the same time the incidence is decreasing in others.
However as we approach flu season when it is normally recommended to get the flu shot - it is highly likely than individuals who succumb to both viruses will suffer more severe illness and a higher number of deaths - particularly in those most susceptible to either.
Due to seasonality, a return to school and indoor activities the spread of flu will occur as it does every year this fall. We know that the flu vaccine works better some years than others and we know that it decreases sickness, hospitalisations severity and death. This year however the risks are higher as folks infected by both COVID-19 and the flu are highly likely to experience greater negative impacts.
While we know that in a typical year less than 50% of adults receive the flu vaccine vs a recommended 70% as set by the Department of Health and Human Services for 2020. Additionally we know that annually typically hundreds of thousands are hospitalised and tens of thousands die - the two together however could bring significantly more disastrous results. Given that flu shots are lower historically in black and Hispanic populations in the US - and that they have had a higher rate of coronavirus infection, sickness and death than the rest of the population - this can further exacerbate the demographic differences we will see.
In addition to masks, handwashing and social distancing reducing the spread of coronavirus fortunately these same factors reduce the spread of flu infections also. This can be further enhanced by a broader vaccination of the US population particularly susceptible sub-groups such as minorities and the elderly as well as health care workers who have a much higher chance of exposure to both viruses.
Does the flu vaccine work?
Yes. It works but not 100%. That is to say that the flu vaccine is imperfect and does not cover all strains of flu (which vary annually) it has a massive impact on reducing not only the severity of flu infections but also hospitalizations and death. Furthermore side-effects are generally mild with a fleeting headache and soreness around the injection site being relatively minor and infrequent side effects. Also as the vaccine is not a live virus - it cannot cause influenza itself though people may feel some mild flu symptoms due to the body’s response to the shot.
It is strongly recommended that vaccines should be especially considered in high risk environments such as classrooms and at work for those working in dense, high-contact environments in addition to those who normally are at high risk of sickness and death from the flu.
Who pays for the flu shot?
Federal law requires health insurers to pick up the cost of annual flu vaccination, as Medicare does. Medicaid vaccine coverage varies by state. Given the massive numbers of unemployed who have lost insurance - it is therefore more important than ever this year that states and the federal government to work together to make shots free or at least very inexpensive for the uninsured.
Where and when did Coronavirus start?
The coronavirus pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and on the 31st of December 2019 China reported to the World Health Organization a cluster of viral pneumonia in Wuhan with cases of which the cause was not known.
The World health organization investigated and by the 30th of January 2020 the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020, and officially a pandemic on the 11th of March.
Evidence showed that the most likely area in which the outbreak occurred was at the Huanan Seafood Market and that the origin of the virus was from another species of animal - also known as zoonotic transmission.
Early investigations determined that the virus that caused the outbreak, known as SARS-CoV-2, was a newly discovered virus and related closely to bat and pangolin coronaviruses. While there are those that speculate otherwise the general agreement in the scientific community is that the virus was a natural one which may have been transmitted to humans by bats that were being processed for traditional Chinese medicine.
The earliest known person with Coronavirus is unknown though several cases can be traced as far back as the 17th of November 2019.
People are understandably worried as to whether or not their dogs and cats can get coronavirus and get sick and also whether they can get coronavirus and transmit that to other humans and pets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, "there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare."
So what are the facts about coronavirus and can dogs get infected?
While it is known that dogs can contract other forms of coronaviruses with the most commonly known one being the canine respiratory coronavirus. COVID-19 however is a specific and novel coronavirus and it is not believed to be a health threat to dogs even though dogs have tested positive to the virus. Like in humans that can be infected but show no signs or negative symptoms - this is the likely case in dogs.
- A pug named Winston who was believed to have tested positive for COVID-19 was later concluded to not be the case. Of note human family members were tested positively for COVID-19.
- In Hong Kong two dogs living in a home with COVID-19 positive owners did test positive. Again neither dog showed any symptoms.
In terms of getting infected from a dog the World Health Organization states, "There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19"
Further testing by Hong Kong authorities has found infection in dogs to be infrequent and they have concluded that these findings indicate that dogs and cats are not infected easily with this virus, and there is no evidence that they play a role in the spread of the virus.
Can cats contract COVID-19?
- It is known that several cats have tested positive for COVID-19 with some displaying mild respiratory symptoms.
- In almost all cases the cats who tested positive lived with individuals who had tested positive themselves.
It was also well publicized in the media that Nadia, a 4 year old Malayan tigress at New York's Bronx Zoo was the first known case of COVID-19 in an animal in the United States. Since then as many as eight big cats have been confirmed to test positive. The transmission to the cats is believed to have been from a staff member and there is no evidence of infection from cats to humans.
Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and USDA official, tells the Associated Press, There doesn't appear to be, at this time, any evidence that suggests that the animals can spread the virus to people or that they can be a source of infection in the United States.
I'm Sick with Covid-19. How Do I Prevent the Spread?
In order to care for yourself and to help protect other people in your home and community if you think you have COVID-19 or if it has been confirmed and you are sick there are many things you can do to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Stay home except as required for medical care
- Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness that does not require medical care and as such most can recover at home. In order to stop the spread of this very contagious disease it is recommended that you do not visit public areas or leave your home, except to get medical care.
- Self care is important and you need to get rest and stay hydrated. Smoking should be avoided. You can use over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control symptoms. Please follow the instructions carefully and do not use more than the recommended dosage.
- Symptoms that indicate a possible emergency include but are not limited to:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- If have any other warning signs or if you think it is an emergency then contact your medical provider as soon as possible or 911 if severe.
- Public transportation, ride-sharing and taxis should be avoided.
- Separate yourself from others to avoid spread.
As the likelihood of spreading the disease increases dramatically with the length and proximity of exposure - it is vital that as much as possible you stay in a designated specific room and away from other people and even pets in your home. The use a separate bathroom is also recommended if that is feasible. In cases where you cannot avoid being around others or if you leave your home - a cloth face covering should be worn at all times.
I need to see a doctor. What should I do?
Firstly it is important that you call ahead prior to visiting your doctor as you may be able to have your care provided by phone or telemedicine. If you think you have COVID-19 but cannot postpone a visit to the physicians office then call and inform them so they can be better prepared for their and their patients protection.
Wearing a mask which covers both nose and mouth is both critical and responsible for those with COVID-19
Even if you are at home in the presence of others it is recommended you wear masks. Even in front of pets. This is not necessary if you are alone.
However if you cannot tolerate masks due to e.g. lung disease - then coughs and sneezes still need covering and maintaining a distance of 6ft becomes even more important.
How to best cover coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Throw away used tissues in a lined trash can.
- Immediately after it is important that you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol should be used.
- Soap and water are the best option, especially if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid sharing personal household items such as cups, glasses, utensils etc.
- Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
- If you are sick you should try daily to disinfect the most high-touch surfaces in your room and bathroom.
- Gloves are suggested. High-touch surfaces include
- remote controls,
- counters, tabletops,
- bathroom fixtures,
- tablets, and
- bedside tables
- When using disinfectants be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. Several products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed. Many also recommend precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
- Most EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
Can I Be Immune to Covid-19?
Aside from durability, not all vaccines have complete protection, for example, the annual flu shot ranges in effectiveness and works better for children than for the rest of the population. In 2019, it was less than 50% effective in preventing the flu, but there were still major benefits.
While our hopes for a return to a ’ normal world" lie in a vaccine primarily and progress is being made in that regard with over 150 vaccines being investigated worldwide - we still have major questions that remain unanswered.
What is immunity?
When the general public uses the term immunity - it is thought of as an almost absolute protection. However in many cases immunity is anything but absolute. The flu vaccine, for example reduces the risk of more severe disease for example rather than infer absolute immunity.
How does immunity work?
In the case of COVID-19 the main mechanism is through the production of antibodies. But it should be noted that one study has found that as many as 8.5% of those infected had zero detectable antibodies. Additionally it is thought as survivors tend to be younger - there are also cell-mediated arms of the immune system that can neutralize the virus through white blood cells and cytokines.
As Charles Cairns, the dean of Drexel University College of Medicine has said: “those who have inflammation mount an immune response that’s more detectable and potentially more robust.” This further points to the potential importance of cell-mediated immune response in the case coronavirus.
How long does immunity last?
We do not know yet. However we do know of cases of patients who had a recurrent infection with COVID-19 and we also know that some other coronavirus infections confer only temporary immunity, in some cases as few as a few months. More data is required.
What factors affect immunity?
Essentially the level and duration of immunity from an infectious disease are highly correlated with the severity and duration of the immune response to the infection. As such infections with more severe symptoms tend to a stronger immune response thus inferring a higher level and duration of immunity. Conversely, mild or asymptomatic cases lead to generally lower antibody levels and thus potentially lower levels of, and duration of immunity. However we do not yet know if that is in fact valid for COVID-19.
What does immunity data imply re a potential vaccine?
Simply said - there is insufficient data to answer this with any degree of certainty.
"Obviously, a vaccine that works 100% of the time would be ideal, but that is not realistic," said Dr. John Mascola, director of the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center.
The level of response to a vaccine may vary from a slight reduction in severity of the disease in some populations or people, to a very high level of protection in most individuals. With so many vaccines in development it is likely that the results will also vary.
Until we have the results of phase III trials which will measure the actual efficacy of the vaccine we won’t know for sure for any individual vaccine. We will thereafter have a better understanding of the relationship and degree thereof between antibody levels and immunity.
It should be noted however than in the case of the influenza vaccine which can have an effectiveness of only 50% in preventing the flu - still confers major benefits not only to those protected but the community as a whole by decreasing the number of infections, and deaths while also decreasing the number of those who become severely ill and require hospitalization, intubation and admission to intensive care.
How do the different vaccines being investigated work?
Different approaches are being used by various institutions to create a COVID-19 vaccine. The group from Oxford and its partner AstraZeneca for example are using the more traditional approach of an attenuated virus which is a virus that doesn’t make people sick but infers immunity. Yet others with Moderna and Pfizer being well known examples are using proteins that can "trick the immune system into mounting an effective response against future infection.”
Once there is a vaccine - who should get it?
Again we don’t know yet until results from the trials come in at the very least. However if as may be the case - previous infection with COVID-19 does not infer as strong or as long a level of immunity - then most people would likely be recommended to be vaccinated.
Additionally like in the case of the flu vaccine, a coronavirus vaccine might also work better for certain sub-groups.
What if the COVID-19 virus mutates?
The structure and biology of this virus is such that it is covered in tiny spikes called surface proteins. Most experts indicate that most vaccines being developed currently are likely to work into the future as sufficient mutation to incur lack of efficacy is unlikely - though a finite possibility does exist.
Is COVID-19 different from the seasonal flu for Diabetics?
Yes - COVID-19 is a more serious illness with a higher rate of death and complications than the seasonal flu in - not only diabetics but everyone.
Recommended safety precautions for people with diabetes are no different than for the flu with frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes.
Where can I go to learn more about Covid-19?
Our understanding and awareness of Covid 19 is ongoing, so as we learn more about this virus it will be important to keep up to date from sources you can trust and verify. Check with your doctor or public health official to get the most updated information about how to protect yourself and others.
You can find more online information about Covid 19 from:
Clean Your Phone
This is important. Always wipe down your phone. You know not to touch your face and to wash your hands, but your phone is likely with you at every step of your day, exposed to an endless stream of germs and a high risk for transmission. And chances are while you’ve learned not to touch your face, you touch your phone and then your phone touches your face.
- Wipe it down thoroughly, at least once a day
- Take the case off and sanitize it with a wipe or a paper towel with hand sanitizer.
- Avoid any ports so you don’t get liquids inside.
- Take the case off and wipe that down separately, inside and out.
- Let it air dry for a few minutes before putting it back on.
- Use speakerphone whenever possible to avoid face contamination (but don’t be rude in public)
- Use a head phone for private calls
- Wipe down the surface regularly
- Don’t take your phone into the bathroom
Public and Shared Bathrooms
- Use toilet seat covers
- Don’t touch anything with an uncovered hand, use a paper towel to open stall doors, flush.
- Don’t place items on flat surfaces.
- Use you’re the back of your hand to turn the faucet on or off whenever possible, more importantly turning it off, and use soap and water to wash your hands.
- If there is an option, choose the paper towels to dry your hands, not the air blowers.
- Never use reuseable towels in a public bathroom.
- When opening the door to leave, use your foot or use a paper towel on the door handle.
Your Home & Car
You know to clean your house but pay particular attention to those areas where people are entering after being in the public, possibly exposed.
- Wipe down outside and inside door handles
- Wipe down counters after groceries or deliveries have been put away
- Wash all new clothing that is delivered
- Wipe down all surfaces in your car that you touched, inside and out, including door handles, gear shifts, steering wheel, radio knobs, trunk latches, etc
- If you live in a building with public spaces, avoid touching shared spaces as much as possible, and if you have to, use a tissue or paper towel that you can dispose of between each touch point. Wash or sanitize your hands as soon as possible after using these. That includes:
- Elevator buttons (use your knuckles if possible)
- Stair railings
- Door handles (when possible use your hip or leg to gently push doors open)
- Mail boxes
- If you’re ordering food or groceries, use no contact delivery options whenever possible
- Wash your hands after receiving the deliveries
- Always tip and tip well
- If you’ve ordered take out food, use your own plates, don’t eat out of the containers the food came in.
- Pay online by credit card whenever possible
- If you have to pay by cash, put the money in an envelope so they aren’t touching it directly.
- If you cannot do no contact delivery, wear a face mask and stay at least 6 feet apart.
- Curbside Pick up
- Pay online by credit card whenever possible
- Wear a mask when picking up just in case they need to speak with you.
- Have your trunk ready so they don’t have to wait and break social distancing
- Tip, and tip well
- Be patient and understanding
- Show up at the scheduled time, on time.
- If necessary, communicate through the open passenger-side window, not the driver’s side, to protect them from oncoming traffic, and to maintain social distance.
- If you encounter resistance – Just walk away.
Anyone resisting social distancing or flouting the recommendations isn’t likely someone who would be open to discussion or convincing. Engaging in discussions will only escalate the tension and risk exposure. If you are uncomfortable, notify management if possible, and get to safety.
General Health: Maintain your general health during this pandemic.
- Continue to take all medications
- Eat healthy
- Maintain healthy sleep habits
- Exercise regularly
- Understand that this is a stressful time and we are all unsure and need reassurances. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Don’t accept easy answers or explanations. This is a time when careful vigilance is needed, and that applies to news and information, too.
- If you aren’t feeling well, even if it’s unrelated to Covid 19, call your doctor’s office.
- If you have a medical emergency, do not avoid the emergency room. You can have someone call ahead to find a separate entrance or timing, if you have that option, but do not risk not going if you need to.
- Dental emergencies happen, too. Call your dentist if you have a problem. Remember dentists are used to practicing very strong hygiene habits and are prepared for safe, effective treatment.
- You don’t need a haircut that badly. Wear a hat, try different styles, use product to contain it.
- Connect with friends and colleagues online through chats or video conferencing
- Find religious services online
- Seek out recovery support resources and online meetings.
- Find classes, new networking groups online, learn new skills, broaden your world
I keep hearing about not touching my face and eyes, but I wear co contact lenses ntact lenses. Should I stop?
No. There’s no reason to stop wearing contact lenses due to Covid 19. But given the concern lately, it’s a good time to remember and be extra careful, developing consistent habits, to always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before putting in your contact lenses. Also be sure to care for and disinfect your lenses and cases regularly.
Will covid-19 go away in the summer?
The Flu typically goes away in the Summer. Will Covid 19?
Unlikley. Countries all over the world are experiencing the effects of Covid 19, even warm sunny ones. Exposing yourself to the sun or heat won’t prevent you from getting the virus if you’re exposed. (Proper levels of Vitamin D, often gotten through healthy levels of sunlight exposure, is another factor in good health, and good health makes your body stronger and more able to fight any virus or disease, reducing the severity and the length of infection.)
The only known way to prevent Covid 19 is to avoid it, by making sure you wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, don’t touch your face, and maintain social distancing.
What can I do to cope with stress and anxiety?
It's normal to feel anxious or worried about Covid 19 . You can take care of yourself, and your family, by trying to:
- Take breaks from the news
- Get regular exercise and eat healthy foods
- Try to find activities that you enjoy and can do at home
- Stay in touch with your friends and family members
Keep in mind that most people don’t get severely sick from Covid 19. Even so, It helps to be prepared, and do what you can to lower your risk and help slow the spread of the virus. But try not to panic.
Why is social distancing so important?
Right now the only way Covid 19 is spreading is from person to person. Since there are many people who don’t have symptoms, or have symptoms that appear to be something else, like a cold or cough, we don’t know who has it and who doesn’t. So to reduce the spread of it, we need to reduce the close contact we have with other people.
In many places schools, businesses, and events with large gatherings have been cancelled. But there’s more to social distancing than just avoiding big crowds. Social distancing means avoiding close contact with anyone who is not part of your immediate household, and that includes even in small groups.
This is hard, but many are finding other ways to stay close, without being physically close, like over the phone or online through video calls and conferences.
Even when social distancing it’s important to get exercise and fresh air, so if you have any outdoor space, go take a walk, hike, or ride a bike, and get fresh air when you can. You can do this and still keep your distance from others, and wear a face mask when you might be around other people, like on a public trail.
This is a lot to ask, we know. It means changing your life, your habits, and it’s normal to want to get back to normal. But this virus has no known effective treatment or cure, so the only way to prevent it and to limit the spread is to keep social distancing. This virus is easily spread, and while it may not even be noticeable in some, it can kill others, and if people stop social distancing too soon, more people will get sick and more people will die.
Can Covid 19 be prevented?
While there isn’t yet a vaccine to prevent Covid 19, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of getting it. These steps are good for everyone, but are especially important for those at higher risk, such as older people or those with other health conditions that could make them more prone to get the disease if exposed.
Practice social distancing.
This is to avoid contact with people who are sick, whether they have symptoms or not, since you can have the disease without knowing it.
Social distancing means avoiding close contact with those who you don’t already live with. It’s also called physical distancing.
Social distancing means avoiding crowds, even small ones, as much as you can. The best way to do this is to stay at home, but if you need to go out, try your best to keep your physical distance from others. Stay at least 6 feet, or 2 meters, apart, and wear a face mask or covering if you can.
Wash your hands with soap and water often.
Washing your hands is especially important if you’ve been out in public or touching items that others have touched. This includes getting your mail or deliveries.
Use soap and water, rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and be sure to wash your wrists, fingernails, and between your fingers. When you’ve done this for at least 20 seconds, rinse them and dry them with a paper towel that you can throw away.
If you aren’t near a sink you can use hand sanitizer to clean your hands. You’ll want a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in it to be effective, but whenever possible, soap and water works best.
Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes.
Covid 19 and other viruses enter your body most easily through your mouth, nose, and eyes, so if you’ve been in contact with the virus, touching your face increases the chance that you can become infected.
Avoid traveling if you can.
Obviously you’ll want to avoid traveling to known hot spots, where there are large outbreaks of the virus, but any form of travel increases your risk of exposure, especially if you have to be in crowded places like airports. Traveling also spreads the virus around the country and the world. This makes it harder to contain.
Can I infect my pet?
There have been some cases where it appears that the Covid 19 virus spread from an infected person to an animal, like a pet, but this is uncommon and more studies need to be done to understand this. So far there’s no evidence that a person can get the virus from a pet.
Do bugs spread the virus?
There is currently no knowledge that bugs, such as flies, ticks, or mosquitoes transmit the virus.
Can I get Covid 19 from touching a delivery package or food container?
Covid 19 spreads from person to person, through respiratory droplets, either directly or indirectly through landing on surfaces. It is not known to spread through food.
Because it can last for a limited time on surfaces (possibly up to several hours) it’s important to continue being vigilant and practicing safe hygiene.
When you get a delivery or touch a take out food container, it’s unlikely that you will be exposed to the virus. The exposure time and amount from a single surface is limited, so the risk is minimal.
Still, to be safe, you can wipe down products and surfaces that you bring in from the outside, but the best approach is to make sure you wash your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, dry using a disposable towel, and don’t touch your face.
Can Someone Who Doesn't Have Symptoms Spread the Virus?
A person can be infected and spread the Covid 19 virus to others even without having any symptoms. That’s why keeping people apart is one of the best ways to slow the spread.
How is Covid 19 spread?
It is now thought that the spread of Coronavirus occurs mainly through close contact from person-to-person with proximity, length of exposure and the indoors each increasing probability of transmission.
The role of people who have COVID-19 but are without symptoms is not fully determined but it is believed that they may in some cases be able to spread the virus. What we do know is that the size of the exposure can be a determinant of the severity of the disease in individual patients in addition to other risk factors (such as number and severity of health problems)
In spreading from person to person the mechanism is:
Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks can enter the lungs of uninfected individuals and pass the disease as the droplets land in the mouths or noses of people nearby- additionally the droplets may be inhaled into the lungs.
The virus spreads easily
One of the things that has made COVID-19 the global pandemic it is - is the fact that the virus spreads relatively easily. It is very contagious and can also continue to spread “sustainably” to new people.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading more very easily between people than influenza for example but less so than measles.
The probability of spread increases with the more closely and the longer a person interacts with others.
Can you get the virus from a surface.
While not by any means the main way the virus spreads it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 through touching a surface that has the virus on it and then transmitting that to their mouth, nose and rarely it is believed, the eyes.
What is Covid 19?
Covid 19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019. It’s caused by a virus called Sars CO V 2. The virus first appeared in late 2019 and quickly spread around the world.
Because the infection affects the lungs and can lead to pneumonia, people with Covid 19 can have a fever, cough, trouble breathing, and other symptoms related to pneumonia.
Most people who get Covid 19 will not get severely ill, but some do. Because Covid 19 can be spread to others, to slow the spread of the virus many areas have asked us to stay home and stay away from other people.
I heard I can get sick from wearing a face mask because of Carbon Dioxide, is this true?
Generally, no. The myth that one can get carbon dioxide poisoning, or hypoxia, from wearing a face mask and breathing in your own expelled breath is unlikely. Non-medical face masks aren’t sealed to the face, therefore air and CO2 circulate in and out of the mask, and they’re typically not worn for a prolonged period of time.
There’s always an increased risk for anyone with a pre-existing underlying health condition, including anxiety, that may cause other symptoms, but in most cases these aren’t significant. If you have concerns about wearing a mask with your respiratory condition, check with your doctor.
For healthcare workers who do wear tighter fitting medical masks or respirators and wear them for a prolonged period of time, the risk may be higher, but they also receive additional training on this. If you’re wearing a medical mask or respirator, be sure to use it properly, to avoid any further health risks or concerns.